Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ching Ching Cha

One of the most soothing ways you can spend an afternoon, bar none, is to immerse yourself in hours of gongfu cha. We were turned on to this ritualistic way of drinking tea in China (where else?). By the end of our time there, we were daily regulars at Cloud Nine, the best restaurant in Taishan, to the point that the staff there had our orchid oolong waiting for us. What a way to stare out at the beautiful mountains (and, of course, the workers pouring out of the factories).

So what exactly is gongfu cha? It is really hard to describe on a blow-by-blow kind basis. Essentially, each person has a small tea pot filled with leaves. This is where the tea is brewed. From there, the tea goes into a bowl where it is stored. (This sounds so unromantic but, trust me, all of this pouring is delightful. And the pots and bowls themselves contribute to the atmosphere, with their lovely shapes and designs.) When it is time to enjoy the tea, two things happen. The first is that some of the tea gets poured into a tall, thin cup, which is ideal for taking in the tea's aroma (one of my favorite smells anywhere). Then, from there, the tea is poured into a wider cup for drinking. Gan bei!

In the end, this only makes sense if you do it. There is a great tea house in Georgetown, Ching Ching Cha, where you can experience gongfu cha in a setting with incense, pillows, music, and high ceilings. With the cold weather moving in, we have been back there twice in recent weeks, practicing our Mandarin and filling our bellies not only with tea but incredibly good dumplings and other Chinese snacks as well.



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